Healthy Aging Tips, Tricks & Games
Activate your older dog’s body and brain with these expert tips
Work that brain! Senior dogs, like senior people, need to keep mentally active to stay sharp. One easy and fun way to achieve this is with treat puzzles. Simply fill these interactive toys with treats and let your golden oldie figure out how to maneuver it to release the prize! We like Pet P.L.A.Y.’s Wobble Ball 2.0 ($19, petplay.com).
Take time to smell the roses—and the bushes and the… Walks with a senior dog definitely require a slower pace. Make them much slower as well as more frequent to accommodate bladders that need to be emptied more frequently. Most senior dogs will need to relieve themselves every four to six hours, or more often depending on age, breed, and medical conditions. If you work away from home during the day, consider enlisting a neighbour or hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to let your dog out to do his business—or install a dog door to allow your dog outside access as needed. Sure PetCare’s SureFlap microchip pet door for small dogs keeps unwanted animals out of your home, only allowing entry to those identified by their microchip or the included collar tag. It also includes a curfew mode so you can set the door to lock and unlock at set times. ($200, surepetcare.com)
Give your dog a lift. Mobility challenges don’t need to mean the end of walks. Dog owners rave about Walkabout Harnesses, used for dogs with arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal trauma, or general fatigue. The easy to use sling offers the rear-end support needed to help your dog stand and walk, do the stairs or get in the car. (from $32, walkaboutharnesses.com)
Feel bored by the slower walking pace? It’s the perfect time to get in those lunges, listen to audio books, or catch up on podcasts.
Master the basics of scent work at home! Here’s how: use birch oil, cotton balls, and a clean mint tin with holes punched in it. Outside or far away from your dog, such as in the bathroom, place two drops of the birch oil on the cotton ball or cotton swab and carefully place it in the tin. Be sure you don’t get any on your hands or in your environment as this will confuse your dog. Put a treat in one hand and the tin in the other, placing your hands about a foot apart and present to your dog. When your dog stops smelling your treat-hand and sniffs the tin, say “yes!” and bring your hands together, feeding your dog the treat near the tin. Once your dog is reliably sniffing the tin to get a treat, place the tin on the ground near you and let your dog find it, rewarding with treats once he goes to it. Increase the difficulty of the hiding spots and even take the game outdoors!
Continue to engage and interact with your dog by finding new activities that suit your less active golden oldie. Holistic veterinarian Dr. Peter Dobias of Natural Healing For Dogs recommends walking uphill or walking on fallen logs as low-impact, strength building exercise that is kind to aging joints. Scent work is also an incredibly rewarding mental activity that isn’t physically demanding and lets older dogs go at their own pace. Also called “nose work,” this challenging activity lets dogs harness their strongest sense—no running or jumping needed.
Get your dog a joint-cushioning bed. It is estimated a quarter of all dogs, regardless of age, are affected by osteoarthritis, making it the most common chronic disease they face. Be kind to sore joints with a bed designed to cushion achy bodies. We love the Oslo Ortho Bed from Bowsers Pet Products. A memory foam cushion insert infused with Cool Gel Micro Beads cushions sore joints, providing an ultra-comfy, supportive sleep spot. Plus, the scooped front means older dogs can enjoy a bolstered edge while still having easy access to their bed. Bonus points for an easily washable cover! (from $135, bowsers.com)
Help sore joints. Unfortunately, most older dogs experience some degree of joint pain. Purica Pet Recovery Extra Strength Chewables can help strengthen bones, muscles, and connective tissues and reduce pain and inflammation. Deliciously flavoured, these tablets include active ingredients like glucosamine and hyaluronic acid for optimal joint support. (from $28, purica.com)
Proven natural relief from aches and pains. A growing number of dog owners are singing the praises of CBD, a non-psychoactive hemp extract, for giving their senior dogs a new lease on life. Dr. Katherine Kramer, medical director for VCA-Canada Vancouver Animal Wellness hospital, reports that dogs suffering from pain, among other ailments, have shown remarkable improvement without suffering the side effects of conventionally prescribed medicines. For Kimberly Pike’s German Shepherd, Zoey, it was transformative. “Within a couple of hours, I could see a change in Zoey,” she says. “No whining or moaning or struggling to get up. Within a couple of days, she was up and down the stairs with ease.”
Two to try:
Suzie’s CBD pet treats, made from hemp grown on their own USDA farm, are full spectrum, human-grade, organic, and dogs love them! An easy and tasty way to provide the benefits of CBD. ($20, suziespettreats.com)
Grizzly Pet Products’ Hemp Enhanced Joint Aid Liquid is a synergistic blend of five active joint support ingredients, wild fish oil, and organically grown hemp oil designed to help reduce joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. ($30, grizzlypetproducts.com)
Don’t let a lack of mobility stop your dog from spending time with the family. Pet ramps or stairs to the couch or bed let your dog continue to access favourite places and spend time with family as before. DoggoRamps dog ramps are adjustable, fold flat, and feature a PAWGRIP Anti-Slip Surface, allowing your dog to safely and easily access the couch or the bed. The bed ramps include removable and reversible safety railings. (from $289, doggoramps.com)